BOSTON – We have seen our share of dynasties through the years in the NBA.
But leading two franchises in three different stints to the Conference finals or NBA Finals eight years in a row is beyond impressive.
It’s downright unfathomable in this era with 30 NBA teams and with that a greater opportunity for parity to exist.
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Still, that is the world that LeBron James has created. It's one where you can understand why some talented teams (Toronto) simply wilt upon encountering James and his teammates or push him to the brink of season-ending defeat (Indiana), only for James to make all the plays when the game matters most to keep his team’s season alive.
However, the mental makeup of this Celtics team is different than any other team in the league, which is why the C's confidence coming into Game 1 of this best-of-seven Eastern Conference Finals with the Cleveland Cavaliers today at TD Garden could not be much higher than it is now.
This is the same Celtics team that rallied from 26 points down in the second half to beat Houston, the same team that has stolen more than their share of victories when all indicators pointed toward defeat.
It breeds not only a tough-as-nails mindset but also a level of confidence few teams that have faced James bring to the table this time of year.
That’s because while so much attention is focused on what to do with James, the Celtics have a bigger, better, more locked-in focus that centers around one thing only: beat the Cavs.
It may sound simple, but we’ve seen a number of teams clearly spend a ton of time obsessing over how to deal with James rather than take a bigger picture perspective and see what it would take to eliminate the Cavs.
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The Celtics' Jaylen Brown believes that as much as his team's play will have a positive impact on the series, he also believes the Boston proven track record of handling basketball adversity will bode well for them.
“This team is the most mentally tough team I’ve ever been on,” Brown said. “We don’t back down from nobody. We have a lot of guys who have nothing to lose. When you have a team like that, that doesn’t back down from nobody and they’re tough and tough-minded, you can do anything.”
And in their mind, that means doing the seemingly unthinkable – eliminating LeBron James and the Cavs.
Several Boston players acknowledged that having so many folks doubt their ability to move on from one round to another – despite being the higher seed in both their first- and second-round series, has only made them dig their heels in deeper and focus more on proving their naysayers wrong.
“We weren’t going to lay down for nobody, no matter who was counting us out,” said guard Terry Rozier. “We weren’t going to just let teams come in and punk us. We were the number two seed for a reason. With injuries, without injuries, we finished number two seed, so we were doing something great all season.
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Rozier added, “We’d rather y’all count us out. We don’t want nobody on our side now that we’re doing good. We play better when our backs are against the wall.”
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